Nigeria: FG commends media, lists 11 measures to accelerate post-COVID-19 recovery

WorldStage Newsonline– The Federal Government of Nigeria has lauded the media for its role in tackling the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic while revealing some of the measures that would be taken to ensure that the country completely recover from the pandemic.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha while commending the media during the fifth annual conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, themed: “Post Covid-19 Pandemic: Recovery and Reconstruction in Nigeria”, also revealed some of the measures being taken by the Federal Government to ensure that the country completely recovers from the pandemic.

The SGF who was represented by the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib said: “I should not fail to acknowledge the role of the media in the fight against the pandemic. Your constructive criticisms, prompt reports of the activities of PTF and your concerted public enlightenment helped in no small measure to douse the negative impacts of conspiracy theories, fake news and vaccine hesitation.

“I want to thank members of GOCOP for exhibiting maturity, patriotism, and professionalism in the reporting of matters relating to the pandemic. The Daily briefing at the initial stage and subsequently weekly and now bi-weekly goes a long way to give the people the right information and on time.

“All these helped to mitigate the effect of fake news and conspiracy theories on the National Response.

“I urge you to use the power of the media and the articles of your trade, in this instance the words that you write or speak, the caricatures (cartoons) and memes to intensify public enlightenment on vaccination.”

Shuaib at the event outlined the post-pandemic recovery and reconstruction measures to include:

1. Establishment of Sample Collection Centres in all LGAs: We tried to build a resilient health system that is sensitive to pick up infections early by encouraging the establishment of sample collection centers in all LGAs, ramping up sample collection to at least 500/week and establishing linkages to testing laboratories and clinical care centers.

2. Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) were intensively trained in order to strengthen the COVID-19 surveillance system at the district level.

3. We heightened vigilance at our Points of Entry, particularly the airports, to minimize the risk of importation of new cases into the country. Our heightened Point of Entry surveillance includes health screening, testing negative to COVID-19 at least 72hrs before commencing the journey to Nigeria and a second test on the 7th day of arrival.

4. Unlike many other countries, our deliberate policy ensured that Nigerians were not banned from visiting any country of their choice nor were foreign nationals banned from visiting Nigeria. Only 4 countries were designated as high-risk countries and passenger arriving from these countries would be required to be under supervised isolation for 7 days before proceeding to interact with the community. These measures ensured that critical skills and manpower from these restricted countries continue to fuel our economy while we ensure the safety of our population. Over 10,000 skilled workers from these countries have been processed through this mechanism in order to facilitate our economic recovery.

5. Repositioning NCDC to command national operations: The Nigeria Centre for Disease control has enhanced its capability to engage with the states and monitor the state of the pandemic. The Nigeria field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (NFELTP) of the federal ministry of Health has served as the backbone of our national epidemic preparedness and response. 

6. Harnessing existing capacities in emergency management for public health: The PSC effectively harnessed our capacity in emergency and disaster management to handle public security, logistics movement as well as provide mass-care to millions of vulnerable populations.

7. Coordination of epidemic and pandemic response systems: The PSC has recently developed a COVID-19 Pandemic Risk Alert-Levels System for our country, which both States and the Federal governments can use to effectively monitor and respond to COVID-19 and similar bio-security threats.

8. Galvanizing private sector support for public health action: Realizing that government alone cannot fund healthcare and socio-economic development, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari relentlessly has been engaging the private sector in efforts at fully recovering from COVID-19 pandemic.

9. Building back better health systems such as: National oxygen plan: As part of our efforts to build back a better healthcare system, the federal government has approved the construction of 42 new oxygen plants and the repair of at least 18 such plants. When completed Nigeria will be approaching near self-sufficiency for oxygen which is critical not only for COVID-19 but for cases of childhood pneumonia and emergency and critical care units; National ambulance and emergency service plan: Learning from the COVID-19 pandemic the Federal Ministry of Health, leveraging on the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF), is swiftly rolling out national ambulance and emergency services- which will enhance our country’s ability to effectively respond to healthcare emergencies now and in the future; Investment in research and vaccine development: We as a nation must make critical investments in scientific research and vaccine development. We should aim at manufacturing vaccines here in Nigeria and not depend on foreign countries for the meeting of our vaccines needs to respond to current and future epidemics and pandemics.

10. Economic stimulus measures/fiscal policies: Very early in the pandemic, the CBN introduced new measures on loans, moratorium and debt repayment:

1 year extension of a moratorium on principal repayments for CBN intervention facilities;

the reduction of the interest rate on intervention loans from 9% to 5%; Strengthening of the Loan to Deposit ratio policy; in addition, a N50 billion target credit facility was floated for household and small and medium enterprises to help re-grow the economy 11. Additional N100 billion intervention fund on healthcare loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to expand/build capacity; N1 trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors; the crude oil benchmark price was also reduced from a USD 57 to USD 30; the CBN pledged to pump 1.1 trillion NGN into critical sectors of the economy; Commencement of a 5-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans; and Provision of credit assistance for the health industry to meet the potential increase in demand in health services and products.

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